It’s hard to find the words to describe a culinary legend like Diana Kennedy. To truly understand the 94-year-old “Mick Jagger of Mexican food,” you’d have to cook with her, dine with her, travel and laugh with her. Fortunately, one filmmaker is doing just that to bring you the first-ever biopic about this grande dame of Mexican cuisine.
Director Elizabeth Carroll had been working on a project about women in Mexico and the culture of their food traditions when she heard about the female food icon. “I knew I had to meet her, but I had no idea if she even had an email address,” Carroll says. “That day, just as I was leaving a coffee shop, I passed a bookstore with a marquee that read ‘Book Signing with Diana Kennedy Tomorrow!’ I was completely shocked and amazed. If anything was a motivating sign from the universe, that was it.”
Soon, Carroll found herself switching gears from a film about the women of Mexican food to one solely on Kennedy. “When we met in 2013, it felt so familiar, like we had known each other forever, as hokey as that sounds,” she says. From Kennedy’s outspoken honesty and passion for sustainable living to her vibrant energy and brave willingness to always challenge what is typical, Carroll says the entire filming experience was surreal. “When Diana visited me in Austin, we’d go out to eat and run errands together. She loved going to Neiman Marcus Last Call. But she never let me cook, of course, and she’s extremely critical about her own food.”
The film, "Nothing Fancy: Diana Kennedy," will include interviews with Alice Waters and other culinary pioneers, as well as exclusive footage of Kennedy’s never-aired 1992 cooking show, “The Art of Mexican Cooking.” Filming is finished, and there is a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for the remaining post-production work and an expected release in spring 2018. One way or another, Carroll says she’s determined to make the film happen: “Being around women like Diana and Alice has been so incredibly inspiring. They’ve demonstrated that we can do whatever we want when driven by a sense of purpose and passion.”
Watch Martha and Diana make tamales together: